Apple says sorry for Maps, but is it too late?

For many smartphone operators, Google Maps was one of the most used applications.

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It would tap into GPS technology to locate live positions on a map, create routes, and search destinations relatively reliably.

The app came preinstalled on all iPhones, until Apple launched the new iPhone 5 and iOS6 mobile operating system, which many users with older iPhone devices downloaded.

In its latest version, Apple deleted YouTube which is owned by Google but can still be downloaded as an app, along with Google Maps, replacing it with its own Apple Maps app.

It however, has been slammed by users because it incorrectly labelled some cities and countries, misplaced some landmarks, along with some distorted images of key infrastructure.

It wasn’t up to Apple’s usual high standard, and the company knew it.

Overnight, its CEO, Tim Cook took the unusual step to post an apology on the company’s website.

He acknowledged the criticism of the new software saying, “At Apple, we strive to make world-class products that deliver the best experience possible to our customers” adding, “With the launch of our new Maps last week, we fell short on this commitment.”

Mr Cook said, as more people used Apple Maps, the better it will get.

He did however, suggest unhappy customers use competitors’ map apps in the meantime.

“While we’re improving Maps, you can try alternatives by downloading map apps from the App Store like Bing, MapQuest and Waze, or use Google or Nokia maps by going to their websites and creating an icon on your home screen to their web app.”

It raises the question, will Apple’s move to launch, by its own admission, an inferior replacement to Google Maps, hurt its brand?

Technology commentator, Trevor Long tells me, “Apple as a company is not used to doing things badly, Apple Maps is a disappointment to the company, and will be ‘that thing’ that pundits use to chip away at the brand for years ahead. So in that sense, there is definitely brand damage.”

“But in reality, the company is judged on a lot more than one App. The iPhone 5 is its best selling phone ever, and the financial results won’t show any indication of the ‘map problem’. The bigger question is, would this have happened under Steve Jobs, and is that a sign of future brand damage?”

The other question is, are there more teething problems with the operating system?

There is anecdotal evidence of Wi-Fi connection problems on older iPhone models running iOS6 and more frequent coverage dropouts.

Don’t forget, the other issues that came along with previous iPhone launches. The iPhone 4 had problems with its internal antenna if held in a certain way, so Apple offered a free case to try to fix that. Then the iPhone 4S disappointed some people because Siri, the voice personal assist didn’t live up to their expectations by not always understanding spoken actions.

Still, all of that hasn’t stopped enthusiasts from hitting Apple stores. Apple has sold five million iPhone 5s during the first three days in stores last week, and that doesn’t include the devices sold online.

Investors though, have sold down the stock, closing at US$667.10 on the Nasdaq overnight, down from an all time high of US$705.07 reached last week.

Have you encountered problems with the iPhone5 or iOS6?

Tomahawk no certainty for Swans clash

Geelong won’t throw caution to the wind in their bid to lock up a top-two berth, with gun forward Tom Hawkins no certainty to return for Saturday’s crunch AFL clash with Sydney at Simonds Stadium.

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Hawkins missed his team’s 66-point win over West Coast due to a back injury that had been causing him increasing pain in recent weeks.

The 25-year-old struggled to even bend over a week earlier against Port Adelaide, and will be monitored closely on the training track over the next few days to determine his availability.

With just two rounds remaining, Geelong are in the box seat to finish second and secure a home qualifying final.

But they will be in danger of finishing as low as fourth if they lose to defending premiers Sydney.

Geelong coach Chris Scott is optimistic Hawkins will be fit to take on the Swans.

But Scott is adamant the high-stakes nature of the match won’t influence his decision on whether to play Hawkins.

“He’ll be OK to train early in the week and we’ll push him reasonably hard,” Scott said.

“These things can be a little bit fluid.

“The early prognosis is that he has benefited from the lighter week on the track and from some of the intervention the medical staff have used.

“By Tuesday we will have a pretty good idea as to whether he’s going to play.

“Even though the game is crucially important, we will value four weeks’ time more than this weekend as far as Tom.

“We’re optimistic, but at the same time a little cautious.”

A fit-and-firing Hawkins is vital to Geelong’s chances of winning their fourth flag since 2007.

Hawkins was a key figure in Geelong’s 2011 premiership, booting three goals and setting up another in their grand final win over Collingwood.

But even if the 197cm spearhead isn’t fully fit, Geelong have enough weapons to win the flag.

Their offensive prowess was on full display against the Eagles, with midfielder Joel Selwood continuing his impressive recent run in front of the sticks with four goals in the 16.11 (107) to 6.5 (41) triumph.

Selwood booted just 33 goals in his first 97 games.

But in the past five weeks alone, the 25-year-old has kicked 14 goals, with Geelong’s only loss during that period coming against North Melbourne in round 19 when Selwood failed to kick a goal.

Cats veteran Paul Chapman made it through another VFL hit-out on Saturday and is in line to return against the Swans, while Steven Motlop is also set to be available despite being subbed out at half-time against the Eagles with hamstring tightness.

Wiggins to return to track for Olympics

Former Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins is planning a return to the track ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympics, he told a British newspaper in an interview published Monday.

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Wiggins made history last year when he became the first ever Briton to win the sport’s greatest stage race, but he has since been surpassed by compatriot and Sky teammate Chris Froome, who triumphed at this year’s Grand Boucle.

Wiggins, now 33, admits he cannot challenge Froome for the Team Sky leadership and says he will now aim to add to his four Olympic gold medals.

“I’m going to continue to the next Olympics and try for a fifth gold on the track, that’s the plan,” he told the Times newspaper.

“Having lost weight and muscle the last few years, I wouldn’t be able to walk back into that team pursuit squad, so I am not taking it for granted but I am working towards that.

“It would be nice to finish the career with another Olympic gold.”

Wiggins won individual pursuit gold in 2004 in Athens and in 2008 in Beijing, where he also won the team pursuit.

In London 2012 he won the time trial on the road and he has seven Olympic medals in total dating back to a bronze in the team pursuit in Sydney in 2000.

However, he says he will spend another season riding on the road before making the change in 2015, giving himself 18 months to prepare for the Olympics.

And although he previously said he would not ride another Tour, he now feels he would be prepared to be Froome’s domestique.

“I don’t mind admitting that Chris is probably a better Grand Tour rider than me,” he said.

“He is a much better climber, he can time trial as well.

“He has age on his side, he has no kids. That’s fine.

“If Chris wants to, he could potentially win five tours now. So if I want to win another tour, I’d probably have to leave the team (Sky).

“I love this team. This is my home. I’m not going to go: ‘I want to be leader so I’m off’.”

Wiggins missed the defence of his Tour crown due to injury and illness.

He had pulled out of the Giro d’Italia in May due to illness and then a knee injury disrupted his preparations for the Tour.

Up until that point he had insisted he wanted to lead Team Sky in France, even though boss Dave Brailsford had publically backed Froome for the role.

But Wiggins claimed he was always prepared to follow team orders.

“At this team, everyone is encouraged to be as good as they can be,” he said.

“I felt, as the defending champion, I was quite entitled to put my hand up and say ‘I would like to be considered for the leadership’.

“But if someone is chosen over me I am professional enough to do my job.”

Newcrest boss vows to fix reputation

Newcrest Mining’s disastrous year has ended with a record $5.

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78 billion loss, and now its boss says his most important priority is to fix his company’s shattered reputation.

Australia’s largest gold miner has been punished by investors, halving its share price.

Chief executive Greg Robinson said he was concerned the market did not trust the company.

Adding to the bad publicity is an investigation by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission and a possible shareholder class action, following allegations it breached disclosure rules.

A series of broker downgrades in June were made in the days leading up to its flagged write-downs and a corporate restructure, raising suspicions that selected analysts had been told about it before the market.

Newcrest denies those claims, but Mr Robinson acknowledged that all of those issues had been damaging.

“Naturally there is reputational damage about the other issues … in the fullness of time the corrective actions around those will become apparent,” he told reporters.

“If you’re talking about trust in the operational objectives and the (production) numbers we’ve put out … I think people feel that we haven’t delivered against those objectives.

“I think the principal reputation piece is bringing back Newcrest’s reputation as delivering against the public objectives it really sets for the business – there’s nothing more important for us in this next 12 months.”

The damage can be seen in the $8 billion wiped from its market capitalisation this year and $20 billion in the last two years as its share price has fallen.

Its shares were up 91 cents, or 7.9 per cent, to $12.39 on Monday.

The chief culprit for $6.23 billion in write-downs was its Lihir project in PNG with its maintenance and production problems, with more than $3.5 billion wiped from its value compared to the $9.45 billion it paid for it in a better gold market in 2010.

Nearly $1.3 billion was written off its Telfer mine in the Pilbara in WA, which has been plagued by poor productivity and high costs not helped by the fact it has to compete for labour with iron ore mines.

The news was mostly in bad in terms of the 2012-13 result, with Mr Robinson saying it had been a “difficult year” for Newcrest.

Excluding the writedowns, the underlying profit of $451 million was less than half last year’s $1.08 billion result and below analysts’ expectations for $485 million.

That occurred because production was 8.0 per cent down at 2.11 million ounces, the gold price was weaker and sales were weaker while its costs went up.

Mr Robinson said the company would slash costs this year, including reducing capital expenditure by $1 billion to $800 million, having already cuts its workforce by nearly 4000 people, partly due to scaling back operations and growth.

Morningstar analyst Mathew Hodge said the gold mining industry was reaching a tipping point unless prices improved, because there would be no incentive to develop new mines.

Trengove eyes Commonwealth Games marathon

Fast-improving Jess Trengove has set Australia up for a strong two-pronged challenge in the women’s marathon at next year’s Commonwealth Games.

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Trengove booked her spot on the team for Glasgow by storming home to finish 11th in the world championships marathon in Moscow on Saturday.

Significantly, only two runners from Commonwealth nations – gold medallist Edna Kiplagat from Kenya and Britain’s Susan Partridge – finished ahead of the 25-year-old from Adelaide.

And with consistent big-event performer and 2010 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Lisa Weightman already targeting the Glasgow Games, Australia can look forward to the event with plenty of confidence.

“I may not run another marathon between now and Glasgow,” said Trengove, who clocked two hours 37 minutes 11 seconds in what was only her third career marathon.

“It might be a really good chance to focus on a solid block of training.”

As part of her build-up to the Moscow championships, Trengove’s coach Adam Didyk gave her some video footage of the late Kerryn McCann’s emotional win at the 2006 Commonwealth Games.

“I guess because I’m a little bit newer to running I didn’t pay a lot of attention to running back then,” said Trengove.

“So when I was watching that footage I didn’t actually know where she was going to finish.

“I got chills and everything when I saw her come across the line.

“She was an unbelievable runner and we’ve got a great history in distance running.”

Trengove was not passed by a single runner in the second half of the world championships marathon held on a hot, steamy Moscow day.

Her 11th placed finish was the best by an Australian woman in a world championships marathon, bettering McCann’s 15th placing back in 1995.

At least 37 killed in Pakistan blast

Twin suicide blasts killed at least 37 people Thursday and injured scores more at the tomb of an Islamic saint in Lahore, Pakistan’s cultural capital, a city official said.

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“At least 37 people were killed and 175 injured” in two suicide attacks at a complex housing the tomb of a Sufi saint, Lahore city police chief Aslam Tareen told AFP.

Another senior city police official, Chaudhry Shafiq also confirmed two suicide attacks and said one bomber blew himself up in the courtyard while the second one detonated his explosive vest in the basement of the shrine.

Thousands at shrine

Thousands of people were present at the shrine dedicated to Hazrat Syed Ali bin Usman Hajweri, popularly known as Data Ganj Bakhsh, at the time of the attacks on Thursday night.

Earlier, police and city administration officials had said there were three suicide attacks at the busy shrine, known as Data Darbar, in the crowded centre of the city which is home to around 10 million people.

“It was a suicide bombing and we have found the heads of two suicide bombers,” Khusro Pervez, commissioner of Lahore said, adding “We are looking into the circumstances around how the bombers penetrated the area despite strict security.”

‘No consideration for religion’

People gather at the shrine in a very large numbers every Thursday.

Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani strongly condemned the attacks, saying: “Terrorists have no consideration for any religion, faith or belief.”

“These terrorists neither respect human values nor care for human lives, and their brutal act is manifestation of their evil designs,” he said.

“The government is committed to eradicate the menace of terrorism at all costs”.

Gilani said he had directed the provincial government and the law enforcement agencies to investigate the attack and catch those responsible.

No claims of responsibility

There were no immediate claims of responsibility, but Pakistan has been hit by a wave of deadly attacks carried out by the Taliban and other Al-Qaeda-linked Islamist extremists.

In May suspected Sunni Muslim militants wearing suicide vests burst into two Ahmadi prayer halls in two neighbourhoods of Lahore and killed 82 worshippers.

They were the worst attacks in Pakistan since a suicide bomber killed 101 people on January 1 at a volleyball game in Bannu, which abuts the tribal belt along the Afghan border that Washington calls Al-Qaeda’s global headquarters.

Pakistan’s leading rights group said the Ahmadi community — an offshoot of Islam that is not recognised by Pakistan’s mainstream Muslims — had received threats for more than a year. Officials blamed that attack on Islamist militants who have killed more than 3,400 people in bombings over the last three years.

Increasing attacks in Pakistan

Lahore has increasingly suffered Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked violence, with around 265 people killed in nine attacks since March 2009.

The city is a playground for Pakistan’s elite and home to many top brass in its military and intelligence establishment.

Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked militants have orchestrated the three-year bombing campaign in Pakistan to avenge military operations and the government’s alliance with the United States over the war in neighbouring Afghanistan.

‘No hard feelings on health plan’

NSW Premier Kristina Keneally says she has no hard feelings towards Prime Minister Kevin Rudd after their meeting to discuss proposed sweeping health reforms.

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Speculation has focused on apparent tensions between the pair during Friday’s get-together.

However, Keneally told ABC Radio on Monday the talks were productive, adding that more are need to ensure the proposals are right for the state.

“There has been an extraordinary amount of pop psychology applied to what was about five or ten seconds of a nearly one-hour meeting,” Keneally said when asked about claims the PM was rude and dismissive.

“We had a very productive discussion. I focus on the positive, I see this as a great opportunity for NSW, to secure much-needed health funding.”

Asked if there were any hard feelings between the pair, Keneally replied: “No, not at all”.

GST re-distributed

Under the federal reform plan, the states would be stripped of some GST revenue, with the government using the cash to contribute 60 per cent of hospital funding.

“We had a very productive discussion.

“We did cover many of the issues that NSW has raised but I think both sides acknowledged there is more discussion that needs to occur.

“We are talking about a health system not just a hospital syste … and that’s why it’s important we understand precisely what the Commonwealth proposes.

“I’ve always said NSW welcomes this very historic opportunity to bring what is needed change to our health systems, but what we do need to do is be sure that what sign up to is in the best interests of families in NSW.

More talks needed

“These are issues we need to work through before we can be confident in the proposal and it’s the right one for our state.”

Keneally says she sought assurances from Rudd about weighting, to allow rural and regional hospitals to meet efficiency targets more easily.

She said the Prime Minister indicated that weighting would occur.

Authorities meet to discuss plan

A NSW Government seminar to discuss Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s proposed hospital reforms begins in Sydney today, and will consider funding, governance and the impact on rural and remote hospitals.

Greens Senator Bob Brown warned the PM over the weekend that he must communicate better on the scheme, after a mixed reaction from health authorities nationwide.

The seminar at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital will be co-chaired by former federal Nationals leader Ian Sinclair, NSW Health Minister Carmel Tebbutt and and former Commonwealth chief medical officer Judith Whitworth.

Under changes announced by PM Rudd last week, Canberra will take over 60 per cent of funding for state-run public hospitals by redirecting some revenue from the Goods and Services tax that currently goes entirely to the states.

Up to 100,000 flee Kyrgyzstan

Concerns are growing over fate of tens of thousands of refugees who have fled the bitter ethnic fighting in south Kyrgyzstan even as the first signs emerged of a slackening of the violence.

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Uzbekistan has struggled to cope with tens of thousands of ethnic Uzbek refugees who crossed the border to escape the clashes with Kyrgyz that have left at least 170 people dead and almost 1,800 wounded.

With estimates of up to 100,000 people already inside Uzbekistan after fleeing the southern cities of Jalalabad and Osh, the Central Asian state said the border would be shut, despite pleas from aid groups to leave it open.

Security Council urges calm

The ambassadors of the UN Security Council called for a return of the rule of law to Kyrgyzstan while Russia warned that the “intolerable” situation in the country risked spinning out of control.

There was sporadic gunfire in Osh during the night and tension remained high in the city on Tuesday. But only a few gunshots were heard as a prisoner exchange took place, in contrast to the steady firing of recent days.

Both the United States and Russia maintain vital military facilities in Kyrgyzstan, an ex-Soviet republic of pivotal strategic importance in the volatile Central Asia region, notably to NATO operations in Afghanistan.

Women escorted

AFP journalists watched as a group of around 20 ethnic Kyrgyz men and the same number of Uzbek men approached each other across the empty no-man’s land separating the two ethnic groups in this devastated southern Kyrgyzstan city.

Each group accompanied one woman. They met and quickly exchanged the women before turning around and walking back to their neighborhoods in an exchange that local residents said was a “prisoner swap.”

Minutes later, a group of around 10 Uzbek men, one wounded with his arm in a sling, emerged from the Kyrgyz side of the city and walked across the same void of several city blocks before climbing into a blue bus on the Uzbek side.

A cluster of local ethnic Uzbeks observing the scene said the men were “hostages” who had been let go by their ethnic Kyrgyz captors.

Barricades going up

As the exchanges took place, men in the Uzbek enclave were busy felling trees and erecting new barricades of logs, cargo containers and wrecked vehicles in the streets to protect their homes and shops.

Local Uzbek residents said they had seen fresh corpses on streets just outside the protected perimeter of their neighborhood but said it was still too dangerous for them to move into the area to retrieve the bodies.

AFP reporters said there was no sign of Kyrgyz military, police or any other representatives of the national government in the ethnic Uzbek sectors of Osh.

The Osh regional police chief however said the violence in and around the city seemed to have receded overnight, while officials in the flashpoint city of Jalalabad further to the north had similar comments.

Berlin celebrates fall of the Wall

German Chancellor Angela Merkel led leaders including Russia’s Dmitry Medvedev through the Brandenburg Gate.

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The procession, in driving rain, included French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Britain’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton represented the United States.

The festivities at the Gate, once on the border between East and West Berlin, featured an open-air concert. Later 1,000 giant styrofoam dominoes were to be toppled along two kilometres (1.2 miles) of the Wall’s former course.

Earlier, Merkel and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev walked through a former Berlin Wall border crossing where hundreds of euphoric East Germans rushed past 20 years ago.

Obama’s tribute

Meanwhile US President Barack Obama made a surprise video address to celebrations in Germany.

“There could be no clearer rebuke of tyranny. There could be no stronger affirmation of freedom,” Obama said of the fall of the concrete barrier that divided East and West Berlin for 28 years until November 9, 1989.

In the message beamed into celebrations at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, once on the border between East and West Berlin, Obama told cheering crowds: “Even in the face of tyranny. People insisted that the world could change.”

“Even as we celebrate these values, even as we mark this day, we know the work of freedom is never finished.”

“Few would have foreseen … that a united Germany would be led by a woman from Brandenburg or that their American ally would be led by a man of African descent. But human destiny is what human beings make of it,” Obama said.

Obama added: “Today, there are still those who live within the walls of tyranny. Human beings that are denied the very human rights that we celebrate today. That is why this day is for them as much as it is for us.”

“It is for those who believe that in the face of cynicism, doubt and oppression, that walls can truly come down.”

Never forget the day

“Let us never forget November 9, 1989, nor the sacrifices that made it possible… together, let us keep the light of freedom burning bright for all who live in the darkness of tyranny and believe in the hope of a brighter day.”

Following weeks of protests against the regime, East Germany’s Stalinist authorities suddenly allowed people to travel to the West on November 9, 1989.

After 28 years as prisoners in their own country, East Germans streamed to checkpoints and rushed past bewildered guards, many falling tearfully into the arms of West Germans on the other side.

Eleven months later, East and West Germany unified.

Huegill qualifies for Commonwealth Games

Geoff Huegill celebrated an emotional comeback when he won the men’s 50m butterfly at the Australian Swimming Championships in Sydney Thursday to qualify for the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

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Huegill, who won gold at the same event in Manchester in 2002, blew out to a massive 138kg after retiring from the sport at the end of the Athens Olympics in 2004.

But the 31-year-old has shed 45kg over the past 18 months as he waged a public battle against his weight in an attempt to qualify for the New Delhi Games.

He looked in great shape as he led from the start to record a time of 23.46s to clearly beat training partner Andrew Lauterstein (23.82) and Mitchell Patterson (23.89).

“To come back from the position I was in, it’s something I definitely don’t take for granted,” Huegill said. “It’s been well and truly worth all the pain.

“The emotions I feel today are well and truly on par with the way I felt 10 years ago when I stood behind the blocks at the Sydney Olympics.”

Brisbane teenager Emily Seebohm became the first Australian woman in 40 years to win the 100m backstroke-freestyle double.

The 17-year-old won the 100m freestyle in a time of 54.70 before coming out soon after to win the backstroke in 59.21.

Men’s 100m breaststroke world record holder Brenton Rickard held off Christian Springer to win his sixth Australian title over the distance in 1:00.19. Rickard’s 58.58 world record was set using the now banned fast suits.

South Australian Hayden Stoekel added the 200m backstroke title to the 50m title he won on Wednesday when he swam 1:58.04, beating Ashley Delaney (1:58.56) and Braiden Camm (2:00.51)